Where are You Now? Where are You Going? How far is it to get there?

I know, the headline is an old cliché, but it rings true for me every day when I see business owners who live in the present and give little thought to the future. As we approach the end of 2018 and face what is sure to be a turbulent 2019, we should remember that all of our dreams, hopes and wishes will come to nothing if we don’t spend some time planning.

I’m not a fan of long-winded plans, though they do have a place when you are trying, for example, to secure funding for your business. Month to month, you need some form of plan that means something to you. It will serve you well if it is rooted in your vision for your business, aligned with your values and drives you to see it through. If it isn’t those things, it will just be a wasted effort that will do nothing to move you towards your goals.

In my GrowthCLUB, business owners spend a day with me once every 3 months. The morning is a review of the quarter just gone, where they ask themselves tough questions: How did I do against my targets? Did I do all the things I said I was going to? If not, why not? If I did achieve what I set out to achieve, how will I celebrate with my team? This short review is very valuable, because it allows business owners to work out what sorts of goals work best for them – as time goes on, they get better and better at setting targets that are achievable and meaningful.

In the afternoon, we turn our attention to the next 90 days and produce, in whatever form is best for each person, a 13-week plan with all of the associated goals and financial targets. Most importantly, this plan is written in a way that resonates with the individual; if you like charts, it’s a big wall planner – if you like spreadsheets, it’s an Excel document to which you have easy access. If you want to write it as a document, with tables, then that’s up to you.

The results are very powerful. As Abraham Lincoln was reported to have said ‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.’ In other words, the time he spent preparing for the task ahead was the most important. You could go into your office, factory or workshop on the first day of the month and just get on with whatever is right there in front of you. But to be really successful, the smartest business owners set aside around 20% of their time to plan the future. Those people come to work at the start of the month with a clear set of objectives such as better marketing, improving customer service, keeping an eye on their competitors or developing better systems inside their business. All of these things contribute to a business that runs smoothly and that means less worry for you as the owner and, inevitably, increasing profitability.

So, as you reflect on how your business did in 2018, ask yourself the following questions:
• What’s my plan for the first quarter of 2019?
• How would a clear plan for the next 90 days help me to improve my profitability?